Archive for October, 2008

Learning to Laugh at Ourselves




Harajuku in Osaka

Originally uploaded by Marxpix

Cupcake. Alice. Doll. Little Girl. Preteen. Little Bo Peep. Nymphet. Wedding Cake. Princess. Amish. It’s-Not-Halloween-Yet. Raggedy Ann. American Girl Doll. Little House on the Prairie. Julie Andrews. What-the-Fuck-Is-That?

How many nicknames for lolita can you think of?

Here is a piece of old news: lolita looks ridiculous. Really ridiculous. There are bows. There is lace. Strange undergarments. Bizarre headwear.

Yes, we love it. Some lolitas define themselves by it. We wear it at the most inappropriate times, just because we can. We walk down the street in it, while other girls our age stick to their jeans and pumps. We are proud of our fashion. It’s who we are.

But for other people, we’re still the silly girls in the silly clothes. And what I think we often forget is that this is a simple truth. We take ourselves too seriously. We are silly girls in silly clothes. Isn’t that part of the fun?

We, as a whole, need to laugh a little more. It is a documented fact that laughter makes you feel, think, and even look better.

You’ve got a giant bow on your head. Isn’t that hilarious?

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On the Topic of Meetups

Meetups are an interesting part of the lolita world. Here is an occasion where a bunch of strangers who are united by a primarily online subculture come together to celebrate their united frilliness.

It can be a recipe for fun, or for disaster.

Let me begin with a disclaimer: I met some of the most amazing people through lolita. I am proud to call some of these girls my best friends. But the fact that we became such good friends is, shall we say, a little bit incidental.

A standard lolita meetup can consist of any number of activities, from the expected tea parties to the unexpected trips to Denny’s. It can be made up of any number of people. Very often, at least a few of these people are strangers. The final, and perhaps most important aspect of this activity, are the pictures. A meetup is not a meetup if photos are not taken and, later, posted.

The part about taking pictures has a fascinating impact on the perception of meetups. First, these are people who likely met through the internet. They enjoy their time off the internet, in the real live world, for a few hours. They then post photos of this real event, thus folding it back into the scheme of the online community. When these photos are posted, they become part of the overall culture of the online lolita scene. People who were not even there are then engaged by being able to see the photos, comment on them, and discuss the outfits and the activities that took place. They may be judged by the community, and whether their photos are a valid contribution. The photos, then, are the only link between the online lolita community and the activities of lolitas offline.

There is an often-overlooked result of these meetup photos, and that is how it makes lolitas–especially those lolitas who have never been to a meetup themselves–view meetups. The meetup is often built up as the second best experience a person can have as a lolita (the first being either living or simply shopping in Japan). When they see these magazine-quality pictures of smiling girls in beautiful dresses, many cannot help but imagine a meetup as some utopic haven of ruffles and bows, a place where everybody is beautiful and kind, a place where one’s future BFF is waiting with her delicate breath held, twirling a ringlet curl around her manicured fingers while she stands on tiptoe in her Rocking Horse shoes.

That would be quite pleasant, actually.

In reality, of course, lolitas are just people. And quite often, I have found, they can be as shy and awkward as any young girl would be when meeting several strangers from the internet for the first time. This is the problem: that lolitas go to meetups expecting it to be like coming home to the best friends they never had, but instead they get stilted conversation and some clumsy attempts at bonding. And why should it be any different? When you walk into a classroom, or a new job, or any new social situation for the first time, do you ever feel anything other than uncomfortable?

I believe that this is why people are often disappointed by their first meetups. It never turns out to be what was expected, but of course, can you be sure that what they expected was reality? Can a bunch of girls really bond over nothing more than frilly skirts, or do they need a little bit more to connect? And can that connection be expected to take place in a large group in the span of a few hours?

But you can bet that when the photos for that meetup are posted, every girl will be smiling.

(Disclaimer: I know that not every meetup involves photos, not every meetup involves strangers, not every first experience was a bad one, etc. etc. etc. We could sit here all day looking at exceptions.)

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Lolita in the Media

Lolita’s been getting an awful lot of press recently.  It was only a matter of time before the New York Times discovered it, particularly after their report on steampunk earlier in the year.

First, I have to congratulate the Times on doing such a fantastic job on their report. Although the article itself is fairly sub-par, what caught my attention were the audio interviews with individual New York lolitas. Where the article, like every other media attempt at representing lolita, is little more than an outsider’s attempt to define a fashion movement that she clearly does not understand herself, the interviews allow the lolitas to actually speak for themselves. What becomes immediately apparent through the audio interviews, where text would have failed them, is that these are ordinary, genuine young women. You can actually hear them smiling as they explain their feelings with their endearing East Coast American accents. The immediate message is “these are not random socially inept freaks wearing a bunch of bows. These are cute, well-spoken young ladies who happen to dress differently.”

I wish I could say the same of the inevitable aftermath of the article. The Jezebel article attempting to analyze lolita’s relation to feminism, while well thought-out, generated a shocking amount of hate in the comments. Although feminists would be expected to claim a forward-thinking, open-minded attitude, many comments were no more thoughtful than your average 4chan thread. Somehow, it is considered okay to speculate on a young lady’s mental and social capabilities, not to mention her sexuality, based on a few photos.

I admit that I became particularly irritated by the suggestion that the feminist movement is impeded by what I choose to wear to the mall. But other than the relatively unexpected source of criticism, should any of us be surprised? And moreover, should we be bothered?

The fact is that an alternative subculture is not alternative if the mainstream accepts it. Every time Little Mama shows up in Angelic Pretty, there is a hilarious amount of widespread outcry among lolitas. If lolitas truly want their fashion to remain exclusive, maybe a few insults are to be expected, maybe even embraced. After all, do you really want those girls who sneer at you in the hallway to be flouncing around in Metamorphose tomorrow?

So put on your ruffly armor, ladies and gentlemen, and wear it with pride. You never know when somebody will try to shame it off of you.

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